Monday, November 28, 2011

Icky Sticky Bubble Gum

Ever gotten a really annoying song stuck in your head? Well, I have a new one that plagues my already frightening brain. Tonight, Sara asked Christian what he did in school today. He proudly burst into his new song, "Icky Sticky Bubble Gum" like the Phantom of the Opera. Sara found this little ditty amusing so they started singing a duet. They invented hand moves to go along with this tuneless ditty. It was a noisy but fun drive. I didn't mind the noise because they were not fighting for a change.

As the older sister, Sara has two modes of dealing with her pesky little "bother". She can be incredibly loving, supportive and kind to him. Or she treats him like a prisoner of war who was put in this Earth and in this family for the sole purpose of torturing her endlessly. They were so cute tonight, laughing and being silly. She asked him dozens of questions about school - who he plays with, what he learned, what he likes best. He lights up when she plays with him. He will ham it up just to keep her entertained. He thrives on her compliments.

Their other new favorite game is "school". Not surprisingly, Sara is the teacher. She teaches a lesson/lecture. Sometimes he sits still. Other times he wanders around the "classroom". Then she administers a written or oral test. She is a tough grader. Answers are right or (usually) wrong with no negotiation. She gets very frustrated when he giggles and won't listen. He has flunked preschool 7 times so far. I hope all this home academia gives her some insight into how hard her teacher works. Her topics of choice are usually big cats, art, and science (things that the average 3 year is happlily oblivious about). Sara is determined to turn him into a little big cat expert so she can have a sidekick. I think she wants a human shield for her planned African safari when she turns 12. (That is the age she decided was appropriate).

I hope he eventually graduates preschool. Maybe she should be his potty training teacher.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

School lunch with a preschooler

Sometimes to shake up our rather mundane lives, we like to surprise Sara at school and join her for lunch. For a 3 year old, this is the big leagues. While we wait in the lobby, Christian is very busy running up and down the handicapped ramp and talking to the frig statue. Why the school has a statue of a frog is a question I never asked. Heaven help the kid in a wheelchair who actually needs the ramp for it's intended purpose. Then he has to greet all the pretty girls with his standard pick up line of "I have 2 blue eyes". While we eat lunch with Sara and her friends, he becomes the new Regis Philbin. He can chat up anyone and has a ton of witty anecdotes. On our way out of the school, he imparts some wisdom to the principal then proceeds to find and jump into every puddle he can find. Then he has the nerve to be offended when he gets wet. Maybe I should have avoided drawing attention to the puddles. As soon as I said "watch out for puddles, buddy", he immediately focused in on them with laser beam focus and made Shamu-worthy splashes. For an all-boy kid, he can be a prima donna about getting wet or dirty. If his hands get smudges or sticky, he has a diva-like fit. At what age do they put cause and effect together? You splash with all your might into a puddle, you will get wet. If you get wet, you will be uncomfortable. Who is the bigger moron? You or your mom for being surprised when you act like a big hypocrite and jump into the damn puddle?

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Thank you notes

I am a firm believer in thank you notes. I love getting them. As always, there are exceptions to the rule. A new mother should not be expected to write out dozens of thank you notes in between midnight feelings, dozens of diaper changes, running a household and trying to maintain a semblance of sanity. My children, however, are NOT exempt from writing thank you notes. I came up with a brilliant strategy. They cannot play with, read or wear the gift until they write a thank you note. Christian, age 3, draws a picture or covers a piece of paper with stickers and I sign his name. But, he knows he is saying thank for the gift he received.

I also believe that all acts of kindness, no matter how simple or small, deserve a thank you. My thank you notes may not be witty, clever, well-written or completely legible but they are sincere. So to all my friends and family, I want to say thank you for:

Always taking my calls, even when I want to rant, rave, cry, whine or brag.
Driving to the cornfields to spend the weekend with us.
Ignoring my messy house and squabbling children.
Overlooking my many, many faults.
Putting up with my bad moods.
Understanding when I get overwhelmed and fall off the grid while I pull myself together.
Never making me feel crazier than I already feel.
Being patient when I let things slip through the cracks and get frazzled.
Putting me at ease when I get uptight.
Reminding me to stop, relax and breathe.
Making me smile when I want to cry.
Letting me cry when I need to.
Supporting me when I need to lean on someone.
Picking me up when I fall.
Reminding me every day what true friendship and family is about.

Professional Mom - Job Description

If being a mother was a profession, I would have been fired a long time ago. But, I have not one, but two bosses. Moms don't get paid. We don't get training. Our first job as a new mother is to grow our bosses. They literally take over our bodies. And the duties get harder from that day on. We give birth, tend to them around the clock, raise them, then send them into the world. We hope and pray we did a halfway decent job of raising them.

We don't accrue seniority or get promoted. We are on call 24/7/365. But, we cannot get fired for incompetence (thankfully). We get paid in kisses and snuggles. No matter how badly or how often we screw up, our little bosses love us. We are cooks, drivers, doctors, nurses, repairman, teachers, money managers, and administrative assistants. We work in a chaotic, loud, messy environment with unpredictable people. We must be patient, flexible, firm, hard working, forgiving, and kind. We must be able to multi-task and handle change quickly and calmly. We have to tough and loving at the same time. I like to think I am one tough mother. But, being a mother is tough.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

10 Things That Make Me Happy

It really is the simple things in life that are important. What makes you happy? Really and truly happy?

Here are some things that make me happy:

1. Hearing my kids laughing
2. Christian's squeal of delight when I pick him up from school
3. A really good workout
4. Getting a card or letter from a friend or family member for no reason
5. Watching my kids sleep
6. Sara's smile when I join her for lunch at school
7. Date night with my husband
8. Finishing a really good book
9. Receiving a compliment about my kids
10. Hearing/watching Sara helping and encouraging Christian with something

Monday, November 14, 2011

My Kids Have All The Anwers

My kids have all the answers. They are so clairvoyant they even have answers to questions that have not even asked. My dad is coming to visit for Thanksgiving. We don't even pretend to ask politely. My kids just call him and tell him he is coming for the weekend. What should we do when he visits? No worries. Sara makes up an itinerary for them for the entire weekend.

Christian's solution to my dad's sinus infection? Grumpy needs a shot.

We are battling our neighborhood board over our play house. Sara's answer? She drew a picture of them playing in front of it and wants to go door-to-door asking people why they object to the house. Frankly, I'm tempted to let her because she is pretty darn convincing.

Christian needs a haircut. His answer? No, I want long hair like mommy. No haircut needed.

I need to attend parent/teacher conferences for Sara. Actually, Sara, ever thoughtful of others, declares that I don't need to attend. I can just stay home and relax.

What should I make for dinner? Save yourself time, Mom. Order pizza or take us to Red Robin.

It's a bath night. Let's save water, time and energy. Let's skip baths.

Tell the kids they need to clean up their toys. No, they will just get messy again. Why bother?

After getting the flu shot, Christian is offered a sticker or a lollipop. He declares that he needs both. Problem solved.

Christian, you need to poop in the potty. No, mommy, I can poop in my diaper. Problem solved.

They have all the answers. Even if they don't have the question.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Monday, November 7, 2011

Beiber Fever

Beiber fever has taken over my child. Ironically, she has only limited exposure to him. At school, they are singing some of his songs in music class. She also claims to be a huge fan of Lady Gaga and Hannah Montana. She has never seen their music videos or TV shows. I can thank the media and classmate exposure for her fanaticism. Today at the grocery store checkout, she caught a headline claiming that her 16 year old teen heart throb might be a daddy. Thanks! I really enjoyed trying to explain to my 7 year old about tabloids and inappropriate sexual behavior of teen idols. She wisely pointed out that he is only a kid. How could he be a daddy? She is still convinced that Miley Cyrus has a split personality and needs strong psychotropic medications. She thinks that Lady Gaga celebrates Halloween everyday. Why else would her mother let her leave the house in those outrageous costumes?

Even as a small child, Sara has loved grocery shopping. For 6 straight months, going to the store or the neighbor's house to mooch food were the only ways to end the 5:00 fussies. She loved all the people and free samples. Now, I hand her the grocery list and put her to work. But, lately she has discovered the tabloids. I'm tired of answering questions about affairs, quickie divorces, spousal/child abuse, illegitimate babies and aliens. My brilliant parenting consists of telling her not to read the headlines. Her response? "Mom, I can't help it. They are right in front of my face." Maybe I should put her to work bagging the groceries.

Tomorrow Is Another Day

Today has been long and stressful. Christian's preschool teacher called to discuss his "potty training". We have started maybe possibly getting Christian mildly and somewhat interested in potty training. He is marginally interested. Which translates into him him peeing occasionally on the potty at home to amuse and appease us. When we started this fool's errand, I sent a note to his school letting them know that if he expresses any interest whatsoever in using the bathroom that they should jump on it and race him to the bathroom, knocking over anyone who gets in the way. I guess I cried wolf. When they took the potty trained kids to the bathroom, they had him tag along. He thought they were either crazy or trying to trick him into doing something illegal. So, his teacher asked what are goal is for potty training. Ummm.... Is that a trick question? We want the kid to start peeing and pooping in the bathroom by himself before his medical board exams. So, I have a rather bizarre conversation about potty training a stubborn 3 year old boy and then my day goes down hill from there. I get to wake him up early from his nap to get his flu shot. He took that with all the expected stoicism of my child. A dinosaur bandage, lollipop, sticker and chocolate chip cookie later and peace is restored. But not before giving the nurse the stink eye and maybe putting a curse on her. We zoom through the grocery store for dinner fixings then head home. Paul calls me to inform me that the cold-hearted monsters on the architecture committee for our neighborhood have rejected our playhouse proposal. Yes, apparently, the old people kn the committee really, really do not like the idea of my kids having a play house in the back yard to play in. I took that news as well as my kids handle getting flu shots.

Sara completes her homework but not until I'm made aware of how tragic and difficult her life is. Dinner is fed, kids are stuffed into the car to get to Sara's art class. While driving, I realize that my wipers are not working. Get kids home, clean up dinner mess, put one child to bed. Send Paul to store for new wipers. While whining on the phone to my dad about the evil cretins on the architecture committee, the doorbell rings. Hmmm..... Maybe it's Ed McMahon telling me that I've won the Publisher's Clearing House lottery. Nope, it's my friend returning the chairs she borrowed. Glad to see her but kinda bummed I didn't hit the jack pot. I've decided to adopt Scarlett O'Hara's attitude. I'll think about that tomorrow. But, I'm going to throw in a little Rhett Butler and not give a damn, either.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

A Girl's Best Friend

I am a complete gadget and product junkie. I fall for the ads hook-line-sinker. I believe it will clear my complexion, clean my bathroom with no effort and make me look like a super model. In my kitchen, bathroom, closet, and makeup bag you will find just about every cure, fix and bizarre invention. Today I hit pay dirt. I found the Kymaro body shaper. I have tried Spanx and every knock off on the market. They ride up or down and make me sweat like a fallen woman in church. This is a miracle product. It stays put. It's micro-fiber fabric lets it (and me) breathe. Getting into it is an exercise in humility. But, so is needing to wear one. So, next time Paul forces me to go to a faculty function and I am cursing my dress up clothes because they don't fit, I can crawl into my new body shaper and look and feel 10 pounds thinner. I know diet and exercise are healthier options but when the sitter is coming in 10 minutes, this is my best friend. Gotta go! The babysitter is on her way and I have to get dressed. But, if you see my new (temporarily) skinny self, I will lie and tell you, yes, I have lost weight. My new best friend won't betray me. That's what friends are for.

Ladies who lunch

Sara and I spent the day together. We had to run some boring errands so we decided to jazz it up with some fun time, too. We started with mall jump. For the uninitiated, it is indoor reverse bunny jumping. Or, as Sara calls it, fairy flying practice. That girl is fearless. She was flipping like a Flying Wallenda. Then she wanted to browse in the Build A Bear store. Her ideas of what is over-priced change dramatically when it concerns her hard-mooched money. She came up with a sweet idea. She wanted to build a dog with underwear for her little brother who is resisting potty-training (to put it mildly). I thought it was a great idea. Next stop was the bookstore. Always a fun but expensive place. She was very helpful picking out some books about potty training for Christian. Then, because she is Sara and always hungry, we needed to have lunch. Moe's was out because that is her special place with Daddy. So, we graced Five Guys with our presence. It is truly frightening and amusing to see how much food my little stick figure can put away in one sitting. While we ate, we chatted about school. She is upset because a girl (Girl A) is being mean to her best friend (Girl B). She tried sticking up for her with no success. She is an amazingly perceptive kid. Sara figured out that Girl B is being picked on because Girl A is jealous of her. Apparently, Girl A thinks that Girl B has replaced her in the affections of a boy in the class. These kids are in 3rd grade!!! Putting aside the Melrose Place aspect of the drama, I was proud of her for sticking up for her friend. She also had another brilliant solution to the problem. She has decided to get a group of friends together to be extra nice to her to make up for being picked on. My kid rocks!!! As we discussed the problem and different possible solutions, a mom at the next table confessed that she had been eavesdropping and was very impressed with Sara's maturity and kindness (and food intake). Sara beamed with the compliments. It's one thing to get compliments from your parents. But, to get outside validation is a wonderful thing. There are times when I am convinced that Sara has selective hearing and ignores me just to spite me. But, apparently, she is listening. Some of the time. Today she was thoughtful and considerate in suggesting and choosing a gift for her brother. She was upset that a friend was being picked on and stood up for her. I love having one-on-one time with her without distractions. She really opens up. I get to find out what happens at school and how she feels about it. We may have to find our own special place for lunch.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Parenting Reality

I don't beat my children. I don't neglect them. I feed them, clothe them, bathe them, read to them, play with them, snuggle with them. I love my kids completely. So, why do I feel like such a bad parent most days? I don't make all their food from scratch. I don't play with them every single second of every day. Sometimes I turn on the TV so they will stop fighting and I can cook dinner in peace. When we go to the park, I use the opportunity to enjoy watching them play and occasionally chat with grown ups instead of chasing them around the slides and swings. I don't make them clean up their toys every night. I run out of patience after answering the same question 6 times in 6 minutes. I am not a competitive mom. I don't care if your kid walked, talked, potty trained earlier than my child. I don't care if you have the most expensive parenting gadgets, car seats and strollers. If I can operate the equipment without supervision, I consider it a good investment. What really gets me? What really makes me wonder about my parenting skills? When we are out in public and my kids ignore me, fight and go all out crazy. And it is ALWAYS when we are around other kids who appear to be the most angelic, mild-mannered and obedient kids on the planet. "Yes, mother dear, I would love some more broccoli. But, first, I should go help my little brother on the swings. It's time to leave the park? Ok, thanks so much for bringing us. You are the best mom ever". Here is how my kids would behave. They would run around like someone (their inept mom) fed them Red Bull. They would fight with each other and every other child at the playground. They would complain about the snacks I brought. They would fight over who gets to eat which substandard snack. When it's time to leave, they would alternate between ignoring my requests to pack up and whining and arguing with me.

Don't get me wrong. I may be exaggerating (slightly) for dramatic effect and sympathy. People assure me that my kids are "normal". My kids are not future criminals. They are very sweet, kind and wonderful kids. But, in my head, my parenting skills are all or nothing. I'm either a great parent who has a grip on things or the worst parent with no patience or skill. If the kids aren't listening, fighting or whining, it is because I'm a failure as a parent. We have days when I seem to have everything under control, including the kids. I can handle the housework, homework, errands, bath time, bedtime and dinner time without losing my cool. Then we have days where I feel like I cannot do a single thing right and I'm doing permanent damage to their fragile psyches. Sadly, you can guess which days prevail.

Visitors and the crazy show

We have a friend visiting us while she tours Notre Dame and St. Mary's. After the last 18 hours, I think she will be touring schools abroad. The kids were beyond excited to pick her up at the train station and see a real train! Then Christian realized that HE didn't get to ride the train and stomped off in disgust. Sorry, Amtrak. You've grievously offended my child. Things went downhill from there. Christian became a bossy and needy nightmare at the grocery store. ONLY Angelina could push the cart. That was only one of his strange demands. Arriving home was noisy and chaotic. Which is the polite way to say that all kinds of hell broke loose. Sara had to do her homework. She finally fessed up that she forgot the vital part of her homework- the dictionary. Sara, giddy at the prospect of no homework, starts a crazy dance. While trying to explain to her that this was NOT a good thing, Christian is running around the house yelling at the top of his overly developed lungs that he was starving and needed a snack. My explanation that dinner was almost ready was greeted with an anguished wail that he "didn't want dinner. He needed SNACKS!". Can't argue with that logic so I just ignored him. Jealous of my parenting acumen, huh? Our visitor took the smart way out. She hid upstairs practicing her cello. I may have to take up an instrument. You get to hide AND it drowns out the noise and chaos. While I put the finishing touches on dinner (popping lids off and scooping their contents on to plates), Sara showered. When a 7 year old showers unsupervised, everything in the bathroom gets wet except the child. It's a mystery. To show our friend how glad we were to have her, I left her with the kids for an hour. I know, I'm the hostess with the mostest. So, let's recap. Here are hostess skills. Come visit me. Tag along to the grocery store. Get put to work at the grocery store. Help unload groceries from car. Witness temper tantrums, fights and general chaos. Share a bathroom with Shamu the Seven Year Old. Eat a store bought chicken. Babysit my kids for an hour. Welcome to my home. Please come again.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Terrible twos and threes

Toddlers are volatile, moody and unpredictable creatures. You must approach them with caution. They have permanent PMS. And there are no drugs for the symptoms. Fortunately time marches on and they mature (slightly). This time last year, taking Christian anywhere in public was beyond stressful. If he wasn't strapped into a stroller or shopping cart, he was a hard-of-hearing, one-man destruction crew. He ran around like a chicken with his head cut off. Sara was no angel during her toddler reign of terror but she could be controlled occasionally. She got used to sitting through our weekly lunch/Costco shopping trip with my dad. She did not treat every store like a corn maze and hide in every aisle. Christian had to be restrained or would disappear faster than Glinda the Good Witch in her magic bubble.

Fast forward a year and Christian is a calmer, more reasonable version of himself. He can hold my hand, walk beside me in a store. We can go to the mall, the bookstore, the doctor's office, even the drug store with minimal drama. I can sneak upstairs to do a load of laundry and not worry that the couch will be on fire when I come back downstairs.

Last week, he got fiberglass splinters in his hand. Note to all parents, letting your kid play with the metal poles used to mark off the driveway for the snow plow is a bad idea. Lesson learned the hard way. I knew something was wrong when he started screaming in pain and would not calm down. Of course it was lunch time and no health care was available. Eventually, he did calm down and nap. At the doctor's office later, trying to explain this bizarre injury, the doctor exclaimed, "Wow, that's a new one.". Thanks, Doc. That makes me feel better. It's not like I let him juggle with our steak knifes. I have to give the kid credit. He sat there like a rock with his hand in his lap while the doctor plucked out dozens of little shards from my baby's little hand. If this had happened last year, he would have had to be sedated and strapped down. He turned on the charm for the nurse while milking his "boo boo hand" for all the sympathy, lollipops and stickers she had. He even thanked her on the way out. Thank goodness he is an older, wiser, more mature and sophisticated 3 year old.

I may use his new found maturity to attempt the pediatric dentist again. Dare I dream?

Mommy Fail!

My kids can't get normal injuries. When they do get injured, my first impulse is to get anyone else to handle it for me. I've had neighbors remove splinters and teeth. I'm not sure who freaks out more- them or me. When Christian first was learning to walk, he fell down. A lot. And he would bite his lip and bleed like a stuck pig. The first time it happened, there was blood everywhere. It was like the prom scene from "Carrie". Being the only grown up in the house, I screamed, "Ackkkkkk, blood!!!!!!". I sent Sara across the yard to summon the neighbor who is a nurse and a calm, rational person. She slipped on some rubber gloves, checked the gaping wound, suppressed her laughter (and judgement) and prescribed a popsicle to staunch the blood.

After preschool, Christian and I were playing outside. Instead of playing with one of his many, many toys, he selected an orange pole that we use to mark our driveway so Paul doesn't snowplow our yard. Suddenly, he is clutching his hand and crying. I check his hand and sure enough, he has dozens of tiny fiberglass splinters in his fingers. I put him in the car and we drive to the nearest doctor's office. Of course, it's lunch time and no one with any medical experience of any kind is available. Christian is crying on the floor and my heart is breaking. It's now way past his nap and he is fried. So am I. I make a judgement call. I take him home, feed him and put him down for his nap. Miraculously, he passes right out. So, after getting my first ever mammogram, I get to take my son to get dozens of splinters pulled from his tiny little paw.

You are probably wondering, as am I, why on earth I let him play with the god forsaken orange poles. Because it never occurred to me that he could get grievously wounded playing with them. You know the doctor is judging you a little when he examines your son's paw and says "wow, this is a new one." Thanks, Doc. I don't feel bad enough. Heap on the guilt. Gotta give the little man credit. He sat like a statue while the doctor pulled the splinters out. He flirted with the nurse and smiled. He waved at everyone on the way out, pronounced his boo-boo healed and conned the nurse out of 4 stickers and 2 lollipops. I don';t think he will be plowing our driveway any time soon.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011


Ok, I am a gadget queen, but come on. I don't know who should be more embarrassed - the inventors or the buyers of these ridiculous products. Let's review:
Baby bangs - a toupee for a baby? That is just creepy and gross. You will be mocked when you parade your child around with those things. I will mock you then call Child Services to save your child from a lifetime of ridiculous moments. Toupees don't even look good on old men. Why would we do that to a kid everyone thinks is adorable anyway?

Parenting Products - Ridiculous and Weird Parenting Products for Kids -
Zaky Infant Pillow - a pillow that is dangerous and creepy! A blatant SIDS risk and guaranteed to cause nightmares.

Sonogram cuff links - I would just love to meet the woman who can convince her husband to wear these. I have tons of photos I will whip out and show off to the nearest unsuspecting person, but how do you casually walk up to someone, shoot out your arm and say "check out these cuff links?"
Designer Barf Bag - Because, as all parents know, kids give us plenty of warning when they are going to blow like Old Faithful. So, we have time to rummage through our designer diaper bags and find a fancy barf bag. And they have perfect aim. So, just hold out that spiffy bag and hope for the best.
Baby Butt Fan - Words almost fail me. Why? How? Try slapping some ointment on the kid's butt and move on with your life.
Placenta brooch - Fashion Don't! I'm not Coco Chanel but internal organs are not meant to be jewelry. If it comes out of me, I don't wear it. That's my new motto.

Breastfeeding Simulator - I tried nursing our daughter until I was blue in the face. Slowly, it dawned on me that I could pump or give her a bottle and everyone was happy and healthy. But, in all my frustrated and sleep-deprived days and nights, it never occurred to me to try this contraption.
Walk up changing table - Let's see how lazy parent and child can be. And let's put off potty training as long as possible. And let's blow $800 on it. Who needs to buy food or save for college?This is a much more reasonable investment. Maybe if the kid used it to change his own diaper...
Birth doll - Come on. This is gonna give some kid nightmares. And you know the kid is gonna play with it in church or in front of grandma. What's next? Dolls that show HOW babies are made?
Baby High Heels - Granted, I'm annoyed when I have to shell out $50 for the Stride Rite walking shoes but at least they are age-appropriate. If I want to put my kid in heels, I'll just break into Minnie Mouse's house and steal her shoes. But, until I win the lottery AND lose my mind, I think my daughter will have to settle for shoes from Target. Sometime I splurge and get her the sparkly ones. See? I know how to glam up my kid.
The Daddle - I have to admit. I am almost tempted to buy this just to see the horrified look on my husband's face. Giddyup, Daddy.

Potty Mitts - Even as a self-proclaimed germ freak, I laughed at these. Here's a couple of practical ideas. Use a Lysol wipe to clean off the seat and/or wash the kid's hands. I cannot see my kid sitting still while I slap those things on him. I can see him using them as slap mitts on the nearest person.
Pee and Poop Plushies - My 3 year old isn't even interested in Tickle Me, Elmo anymore. Or potty training, for that matter. What on earth is he supposed to do with these? I'm guessing he would try to flush them. How do I explain that to the guy who cleans out our septic tank?

Next time my friends and family mock my crazy invention ideas, I will show them these products and laugh all the way to the bank.